LOS ANGELES (AP)—Joe Saunders(notes) is going to be on the sidelines again when the surging Arizona Diamondbacks visit San Francisco with a chance to overtake the NL West leaders in a three-game series.
The Giants will miss Saunders in the rotation, which is not a good thing for the Diamondbacks, who got another solid outing from the left-hander Sunday in a 6-3 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Saunders came within four outs of his second straight complete game, helping Arizona win for the 10th time in 15 games.
“I’ve missed the Giants at AT&T Park every time I’ve been there with the Angels and the Diamondbacks. I’ve yet to pitch there. It’s unbelievable,” said Saunders, who made his big league debut in 2005. “I’ve never even pitched there in an exhibition game. I know it’s a great atmosphere and the fans are really into the game, so hopefully one day I can finally have that experience. I heard it’s a pretty good pitcher’s park, too.”
Gerardo Parra(notes) homered twice and Ryan Roberts(notes) also went deep for the Diamondbacks. The victory, coupled with San Francisco’s 9-0 loss at Cincinnati, helped Arizona climb within two games of first place.
The Diamondbacks have lost seven of the first nine meetings this season, dropping all three games at AT&T Park in mid-May by one-one margins.
“I think we’re a different team now and we’ve developed a lot of character,” manager Kirk Gibson said. “This is what it’s all about, and guys love it. It’ll probably be pretty exhaustive. But it’s not do-or-die, and I don’t want guys to put pressure on themselves—just continue to grit and grind.
“We know it’s going to be different, playing in the Giants’ ballpark instead of ours, because of the sold-out crowd,” Gibson added. “But we know what that’s like, so we’re just going to have to keep our composure, as we have in every series, and not make too big of a deal of what the real situation is— good or bad. We just have to keep an even keel, and however we come out of that series, we’ll move on to the next one.”
Saunders (8-8) won his fifth straight road decision, allowing two runs and eight hits—including four singles by Andre Ethier(notes) and a solo homer by Dioner Navarro(notes). Saunders was 0-5 over his first nine outings with a 5.02 ERA. But he has balanced his books, after finishing July 4-1 with a 2.16 ERA in six starts.
“It was a good month. It kind of makes up for the start I had,” Saunders said. “I tried to get back to even-par the best I could, and now we can go on from here.”
Ryan Cook(notes) replaced Saunders after Ethier singled with two outs in the eighth, then gave up singles by Matt Kemp(notes) and Juan Rivera(notes)—whose hit drove in Ethier with the Dodgers’ second run.
Los Angeles put two on in the ninth against David Hernandez(notes). J.J. Putz(notes) came in with one out and gave up an RBI single to Tony Gwynn Jr.(notes) before getting the final two outs for his 24th save in 28 chances. Aaron Miles(notes) flied out and Ethier did the same while representing the potential tying run.
“He’s not the guy you want to see up there with the game on the line,” Putz said. “He’s a guy who can beat you with power when he needs to and he can hit the ball to all fields.”
The Dodgers, 10 games out of first place when July began, now sit 12 1/2 off the pace after going 12-13 during the month.
“Everything is bad when you’re not in first place and not contending,” Kemp said. “It’s not going too good right now. Our pitchers are doing a great job of keeping us in games, for the most part, but we’ve just got to start scoring some runs for them and get that timely hitting. There’s still two months left, so we’ve got some work to do.”
De La Rosa had allowed only four home runs over his nine previous big league starts before Roberts drove a 3-2 pitch into the lower seats in the left-field corner for his 15th of the season. Parra homered three pitches later for a 2-0 lead.
The Diamondbacks, who came in leading the NL with 339 extra-base hits, added five more to their total. Parra added his seventh homer in the eighth with a runner on against Hong-Chih Kuo(notes), giving him his first career two-homer game.
“It was a big day for him,” Gibson said. “When he’s more selective and gets balls into his nitro zone, he can drive the ball. In spring training, he would try to force everything to the left side of the diamond. Now he’s starting to understand what they’re trying to do to him and he’s making them pay. The one off Kuo, I mean, we haven’t seen that since I’ve been here.”
Parra’s second homer of the day was only the second allowed by Kuo in 22 appearances this season. But the left-hander, who missed 32 games because of an anxiety disorder before returning to the bullpen on June 19, has yielded eight runs in two innings over his last four appearances.
Notes: Ethier was the first left-handed hitter to get four hits in a game against Saunders since Oct. 2, 2010, when he also had four singles without an RBI in the Dodgers’ 3-2 win. … Saunders was 0-4 with a 4.00 ERA over his previous six starts against the Dodgers.